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Kanye Omari West (born June 8, 1977 Atlanta, Georgia) is an American record producer and is a multiple Grammy Award-winning rapper who rose to fame in the mid 2000s. He released his debut album The College Dropout in 2004, his second album Late Registration in 2005, and his third album Graduation in 2007. His first three albums have received numerous awards (including nine Grammys) critical acclaim, and commercial success. West also runs his own record label GOOD Music. West's mascot and trademark is a teddy bear, which has appeared on the covers of his three albums as well as the single cover for his song "Stronger".
Kanye took some art classes at the American Academy of Art, a Chicago art school, and also enrolled at Chicago State University, but eventually dropped out due to poor grades and in order to continue working on his music career. While attending school, West produced for local artists. He later gained fame by producing hit singles for major hip hop/R&B artists, including Jay-Z, Talib Kweli, Cam'ron, Paul Wall, Common, Mobb Deep, Jermaine Dupri, Scarface, The Game, Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson and John Legend among others. He also "ghost-produced" for his once mentor Deric Angelettie according to his song "Last Call" and the credits of Nas' "Poppa Was a Playa".
West's style of production often utilizes pitched-up vocal samples, usually from soul songs, with his own drums and instruments. The first major label song he produced was The Truth by Beanie Sigel, and his first major release featuring his trademark vocal sampling style was "This Can't Be Life", a track from Jay-Z's The Dynasty: Roc La Familia. West said he sped up the drum beat of Dr. Dre's "Xxplosive" to use as a replacement for his drums on "This Can't Be Life". West has said that Wu-Tang Clan producer RZA influenced him in his style, and has said on numerous occasions that Wu-Tang rappers Ghostface Killah and Ol' Dirty Bastard were some of his all-time favorites. Said by Kanye West: "Wu-Tang? Me and my friends talk about this all the time? We think Wu-Tang had one of the biggest impacts as far as a movement.
West's sound was featured heavily on Jay-Z's critically-acclaimed album The Blueprint, released on September 11, 2001. His work was featured on the lead single "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" and a diss track against Nas and Mobb Deep named "Takeover"; multiple record companies pushed him aside because he was not the stereotypical hip hop artist. Companies felt he was not as marketable as rappers that portray the "street image" that is prominent in hip hop culture.
On October 23, 2002, West was involved in a near fatal car crash while driving home from the recording studio. The crash provided inspiration for West's first single, "Through the Wire". West's faith is apparent in many of his songs, such as "Jesus Walks", which became a staple at his benefit performances, such as the Live 8 concert. These songs were featured on West's debut album, The College Dropout, which was released on Roc-A-Fella Records in February 2004, and went on to receive critical acclaim. The album also defined the style for which West would become known, including wordplay and sampling. The album went certified triple platinum. Guest appearances included Jay-Z, Ludacris, GLC, Consequence, Talib Kweli, Common, and Syleena Johnson. The album also featured the singles, "All Falls Down" and "The New Workout Plan", as well as Twista's single, "Slow Jamz".
West was involved in a financial dispute over Royce Da 5'9"'s song "Heartbeat", produced by West and released on Build & Destroy: The Lost Sessions. West maintains that Royce never paid for the beat, but recorded to it and released it; hearing him on the beat, the original customers decided not to buy it from West. After the disagreement, West vowed to never work with Royce again. Other Kanye West-produced hit singles during the period The College Dropout was released included "I Changed My Mind" by Keyshia Cole, "Overnight Celebrity" by Twista and "Talk About Our Love" by Brandy.
On August 30, 2005, West released his second album Late Registration. Reviews were mostly favorable: "Late Registration is an undeniable triumph" (Rolling Stone), "As ornate and bloated as West's ego." With the help of producer samples in different ways along with compositions of strings and other sounds. The record earned the number one spot on the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics poll of 2005. The album also included "My Way Home", a track that sampled Gil Scott-Heron's mournful "Home Is Where The Hatred Is". The album is certified triple platinum. Guest appearances include Jamie Foxx, Adam Levine, Paul Wall, GLC, Cam'ron, Common, Brandy, Jay-Z, Consequence, The Game & Really Doe.
In September 2005, West announced that he would release his Pastelle Clothing line in spring 2006: "Now that I have a Grammy under my belt and Late Registration is finished, I am ready to launch my clothing line next spring." Even months after its speculated release, the current status of this project is unknown. In that year, West produced the hit singles "Go" by Common and "Dreams" by The Game.
In January 2006, West again sparked controversy when he appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in the image of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns. Later that month, he suggested in Playboy that if a Bible were written in the present day, he is famous and important enough to be included in it. "I throw up historical subjects in a way that makes kids want to learn about them," West claimed, "[I'm] definitely in the history books already."
After the 2006 Grammy nominations were released, West said he would "really have a problem" if he didn't win the Album of the Year because of the comments, saying "I don't care what I do, I don't care how much I stunt ? you can never take away from the amount of work I put into it. I don't want to hear all of that politically correct stuff." West won several Grammy awards, including Best Rap Album, but did not win the Album of the Year Award. The award instead went to U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Coincidentally, in November 2006, West was the opening act for U2 during the fifth leg of their Vertigo Tour in Australia and New Zealand.
On August 5, 2006, West headlined the second day of the Lollapalooza music festival in his hometown of Chicago. Later that month, People magazine reported that West became engaged to his girlfriend Alexis while spending two weeks overseas with her.
On November 2, 2006, when "Touch the Sky" failed to win Best Video at the MTV Europe Music Awards, West went onto the stage as the award was being presented to Justice and Simian for "We Are Your Friends" and argued that he should have won the award instead. Hundreds of news outlets worldwide criticized the outburst. On November 7, 2006, West apologized for this outburst publicly during his performance as support act for U2 for their Vertigo concert in Brisbane, Australia.
In the song "Roses", West raps about his grandmother's struggle against AIDS and expresses his outrage at the availability of treatment: "If Magic Johnson got a cure for AIDS / And all the broke mothafuckas passed away / You telling me if my grandma was in the NBA / Right now she would be okay?". This is also a reference to Johnson's unlikely recovery and highly publicized battle with the HIV virus. In the song "Heard 'Em Say", West raps, "And I know the government administered AIDS/So I guess we just pray like the minister say."
Demonstrating his views against George W. Bush, in a 2006 live orchestral performance of "All Falls Down" (later released on the "Late Orchestration" mixtape) West replaced "the White man gets paid off of all of that" with "George Bush gets paid off of all of that".
On August 22, 2005, the MTV special All Eyes On Kanye West aired, in which West spoke out against homophobia in hip-hop, claiming that hip-hop has always been about "speaking your mind and about breaking down barriers, but everyone in hip-hop discriminates against gay people". He then reflected on a personal experience. He went on to say that "not just hip-hop, but America just discriminates against gay people ... I wanna just come on TV, and just tell my rappers, just tell my friends, 'Yo, stop it'". He also drew comparison between African Americans' struggle for civil rights.
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